Small fiber dysfunction predominates in Fabry neuropathy

M Dütsch, H Marthol, B Stemper, M Brys, T Haendl, M J Hilz
Journal of Clinical Neurophysiology: Official Publication of the American Electroencephalographic Society 2002, 19 (6): 575-86
Fabry disease is an X-linked recessive disease with a reduction of lysosomal alpha galactosidase A and consecutive storage of glycolipids e.g., in the brain, kidney, skin, and nerve fibers. Cardinal neurologic findings are hypohidrosis, painful episodes, and peripheral neuropathy. So far, the neurophysiological findings regarding the extent of large and small fiber dysfunction are contradictory. This study evaluated large and small nerve fiber function in a homogeneous group of Fabry patients. In 24 of 30 Fabry patients with creatinine below 194.7 mmol/L the authors assessed median, ulnar, and peroneal motor conduction velocity (MCV) and median, ulnar, and sural sensory conduction velocity (SCV) nerve conduction to study the function of thickly myelinated nerve fibers. In addition, the authors studied sympathetic skin responses (SSR) at both hands and feet in 24 patients. To evaluate A beta nerve fiber function, the authors determined vibratory detection thresholds (VDT) at the first toe in 30 patients. Function of A delta and C fibers was assessed by quantitative sensory testing of cold detection threshold (CDT) and heat-pain detection thresholds (HPDT). Nerve conduction studies showed significantly decreased amplitudes of MCVs and SCVs in Fabry patients as compared to controls. However, individual results of MCV and SCV studies were only mildly impaired. SSRs were present in all tested patients but SSR amplitudes were significantly decreased in Fabry patients in comparison to controls. VDT, CDT, and HPDT were significantly elevated in Fabry patients as compared to controls. However, only six patients had pathologic VDT, 19 had increased CDT, and 25 had elevated HPDT at a high level of stimulation. In Fabry patients, small fiber dysfunction is more prominent than large fiber dysfunction, confirming previous findings of sural nerve biopsies. The results suggest a higher vulnerability of small-diameter nerve fibers than of the thickly myelinated fibers.

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